Looking for tips on what to do in Bend Oregon?
We spent 5 days exploring Bend during our Oregon road trip, and here is what we believe are the best things to do in Bend Oregon including tubing, hiking, drinking beer (or cider) plus advice on where to stay.
Bend, Oregon was a place I had heard about for its hot summers, epic outdoor adventures, serene river tubing and blossoming craft beer scene.
What we discovered during our 5 day visit was all of this, plus an interesting volcanic environment, a spectacular High Desert state park, delicious food, thriving music scene, fantastic local craft beers and ciders, and a hipster downtown feel.
The vibe in Bend reminded me of the relaxed life and happy feeling of Raleigh, NC and Burleigh Heads in Australia. The two places I most enjoy living in the world.
There’s a reason why Bend, Oregon is growing in popularity for those seeking outdoor fun all year round and those who are migrating there for a better pace of life. Put this place on your Pacific Northwest road trip.
When you visit Bend, you will be entertained with its surrounding peaks, most notable Mt Bachelor. They were still snow capped when we visited and unfortunately, we arrived right when the weather dipped into cold for the week.
I want to return in August when the weather is full-fledged summer hot and the music festivals and concerts are in abundance.
I was bummed that Xavier Rudd and John Butler Trio, two of my favorite Aussie artists played in August and we missed them!
- Where is Bend Oregon?
- Tubing on the Deschutes River
- Misery Ridge Trail, Smith Rock State Park
- Newberry National Volcanic Monument
- Explore Downtown Bend
- Drink Beer (or cider)
- Goody’s Ice Cream
- Other Places to Visit in Bend
- Tumalo Falls
- Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway
- Mt Bachelor
- Pilot Butte State Park
- Old Mill District
- Deschutes River Trail
- High Desert Museum
- Video: Bend Oregon
- Places to Stay in Bend Oregon
- Plan Your Oregon Road Trip with our Bucket List
- More travel tips & adventures in the Pacific Northwest
- Pin Below To Save On Pinterest:
Where is Bend Oregon?
Bend is in Central Oregon, tucked between snow-covered peaks of the Cascade mountain range and the high desert plateau.
Once a sleepy lumber town, it has now become the playground of the west and an international mecca for those who to love outdoor adventure.
Bend is one of the few USA towns with a dormant volcano on its city limits.
It’s three hours from Portland and Eugene, and two hours from Crater Lake National Park near the Umpqua National Forest.
Let’s look at some of the cool things to do in Bend, Oregon.
Tubing on the Deschutes River
At the top of my list of fun things to do in Bend Oregon with kids was to go tubing on the Deschutes River.
If you’re done after an hour float, which we were thanks to the cooler temperatures and 57F water temps, Whitewater Park is a great place to disembark.
If you want to keep going you can float for another hour up to Drake Park in the downtown area.
Whitewater Park however is not to be missed either way. This is where the river splits into three separate channels, providing a ride for all skill levels.
Tubers will want to go down the Passageway Channel which is a more mellow series of rapids. It’s a fun ride and there are chances you will flip as I did on the very last rapid.
As you come down the rapids, you can easily get stuck in them as it hits the water underneath on the next level. You may have to wait for another tube to bump you out of it if you can’t get yourself out.
Or, you could be just like me and flip out!
I actually found it quite refreshing and didn’t care when I slipped and went under again trying to walk out of the rapidly moving river.
With plenty of time up your sleeve why not go through the rapids again and again.
You’ll definitely want to stay awhile and watch the surfers ride the waves in the whitewater channel next to the tubing one. It created distinct man-made waves you can surf or kayak through.
Misery Ridge Trail, Smith Rock State Park
Visiting this state park is one of the best things to do near Bend, Oregon.
Majestic rock spires, the result of hardened ash, lava and debris rise above the winding Crooked River in the high desert.
Smith Rock Tuff is the largest of the rocks in the caldera.
There are 12 official hiking trails at Smith Rock State Park, but none are as well known or all encompassing like the 5.5 mile Misery Ridge Loop Trail.
Don’t let the name deceive you. Despite a very steep 1,000 ft climb for the first mile over a series of switchbacks there was nothing miserable about this walk.
Even the switchbacks had us feeling good with the rushing endorphins and spectacular views of the towering basalt cliffs.
Smith Rock State Park is about 30 minutes north of Bend and is a renowned destination globally for world class rock climbing!
We saw many scaling the cliff faces from beginners at the much shorter and easier rock faces, to the huge Monkey Face column standing on its own and waiting for its conquers to enjoy the view from the tip of its head.
I admired the view for behind it. With the meandering river and lush green valley below it was one of the prettiest views I’ve seen in America.
When hiking Misery Ridge Trail, I recommend starting with the steep climb up to the top of Smith Rock. It’s far better to do the hard stuff first, especially with kids.
The rest of the walk then seems like a breeze and you’ll have less trauma trying to get them and you up the mountain after already walking 3 miles.
Our kids handled the climb really well and we made a great pace up to the top.
The path starts by going down into the canyon via the Chute trail. You then cross the river and head straight up into the switchbacks.
Pause when you can to catch your breath and admire the views. It reminded me so much of Zion National Park and Capitol Reef National Park’s in Utah.
It was Smith Rock State Park that helped me to see Bend was a high desert. I could not get that classification from being down in the town.
Stop at the summit for snacks, selfies, views and a little tree climbing for the kids.
You’ll then walk around the ridge line on a straight easy path to views on the other side and where you’ll see the rock climbers. I enjoyed watching them and spying on the beautiful homes below.
The rest of the walk then is along the riverfront which offers another beautiful perspective of this walk.
Wildflowers and sage bushes lined the trails and small black and white rocks that looked like whales in the distance lined the river.
Things to note about Smith Rock State Park:
- $5 day use fee
- Bikes are permitted on riverside trails
- There is tent camping at the Bivouac area. Walk in only
- Smith Rock is in Terrebonne
TOUR FROM BEND: Smith Rock State Park & Sisters Full-Day Tour
Newberry National Volcanic Monument
Newberry National Volcanic Monument is the largest volcano in the Cascade Range.
One of the best things to do in Bend Oregon is learn about Oregon’s fiery past and get up close to the creations that occur from a volcano.
Newberry began erupting 500,000 years ago and had its last eruption 1,300 years ago.
Over that time its massive lava flows produced lava tubes, over 400 cinder cones, and volcanic vents which we now get to explore through activities such as hiking, biking, swimming and boating.
The Newberry National Monument is south of Bend and encompasses 54,822 acres within the Deschutes National Forest.
The Trail of the Molten Land
Lava Butte cinder cone sits above a barren landscape of dark volcanic rock it helped to create thousands of years ago with its eruption.
The Trail of the Molten Land will take you along the fiery path of the lava. Panels along the way will tell you more about the eruption and surrounding land formation.
As you walk on the trail imagine a river of fiery lava filling the valley in front of you as it ran down from the main channel pouring from the butte creating the many unique features of the volcanic landscape!
This 1.1 mile long partial loop is another great activity to do in the Newberry Volcanic Monument, which is part of Deschutes National Forest.
An overlook at trail’s end offers excellent westward views of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains.
Lava River Tube Cave Hike
The Lava River Cave is a mile-long lava tube formed 80,000 years ago with the Newbury Volcano’s eruptions.
It’s Oregon’s longest lava tube. This hike was one of the most fun activities to do in Bend with kids and a unique adventure on uneven ground in the dark.
Be prepared for slippery surfaces and 150 stairs. I nearly fell over loads of times as I had a very dim flashlight. Be sure to take a bright flashlight. You can hire them there or take your own.
The Lava River Cave is a self guided walk. The kids had a blast running ahead in the dark, and trying to spook each other by jumping out.
It’s 42 degrees Fahrenheit year round in here so be sure to wear warm clothes and sturdy closed in shoes. The tube narrows and shortens in some sections so watch your heard. It
Parking is a challenge here. We had to do 3 laps until one opened up. It seemed to open up after 3pm.
They close the gates at 3:45pm and you’re expected to be out of the cave by 5pm. Alternatively, arrive by 10am.
Bike to Benham Falls
This bike ride to Benham Falls was one of my favorite things to do in Bend.
It was a fun adventure winding through pretty forest to the Deschutes River at the Benham Falls Trailhead.
The Sun-Lava paved road starts at the Lava Lands Visitor Center and is 5.5 miles one way.
We knew were were going to be in for a bit of a challenging ride back when the trail began going slightly downhill and pretty much stayed that way for the entire length of the ride.
The paved road ends at the bridge and turns into a dirt road for the last half mile to the falls. It’s beautiful so keep riding.
Be careful of pedestrians particularly the first part of the trail as it is narrow and rocky and can be busy. It’s not long before it opens up to a wider and graded road.
The trail here follows the river and is beautiful. Park your bike and go on the trail to experience the falls.
Benham Falls is not a plummeting waterfall but rather a series of cascading rapids. The water is gushing here and would be a fun whitewater rafting adventure, although I am not sure they do this!
With old growth ponderosa pines lining the waterfall, it’s’ a beautiful sight and well worth the bike ride. You can also drive down to the falls if you don’t want to bike it.
8 year old Savannah did better than any of us. 5.5 miles is a long way to ride when its mostly uphill and you’re on a small kids bike with no gears.
I was impressed she could sing and chat to me the entire way and I had to put her on pause a couple of times so I could focus on breathing and making it to the top of the incline.
More things to do in Newberry National Volcanic Monument
We did not get time to do these activities. They are on my list of things to do in Bend when we return.
We arrived too late at the visitor center to catch the shuttle up to Lava Butte. It’s the only way you can get up to the rim of this cinder cone.
Lava Butte is one of Newberry’s many cinder cones and it erupted 7,000 years ago. It rises 500 feet above its 9 square mile lava flow.
You can still enjoy views of it while walking through its lave flow on the Molten Lands trail.
Big Obsidian Flow Trail
I wanted to do this trail but it was a 40 minute drive and we ran out of time.
The Big Obsidian Flow trail is near Paulina and East Lake, so I recommend taking at least half a day to explore this area while you there.
Big Obsidian Flow is the youngest of the Newberry Volcano’s lava flow. It’s a mile loop walk. You’ll be surrounded by black volcanic glass and have views of the surrounding peaks.
Do not take any of the obsidian rock home with you but definitely delight in it on your walk.
CONSIDER: Half-Day Volcano Tour
A twin waterfall that plummets 80 ft. down over the lowers portion of the Newberry Caldera. It’s an easy 2 mile forested trail to views from below and a short hike to the upper viewing area.
This is a challenging 2 mile hike with a 1,400 ft elevation gain. But beautiful views of the Newberry Caldera await from the top!
Explore Downtown Bend
There are plenty of things to do in Downtown Bend, a historical area with award winning restaurants, micro brews, unique shops, hotels, art galleries and theaters.
It is located on the Deschutes River, a hive of activity for the locals. Drakes Park is the community gathering spot with hosts plenty of free events in Bend during the summer months.
Set along the Deschutes River, the 13-acre park provides a half-mile stretch of public river access. The river here widens, creating a placid stretch of water named Mirror Pond.
From July – August, Drake Park has live music on Thursdays, the farmers market on Wednesdays, and an artisan market is on Saturdays.
Another of the popular Bend Oregon events is the First Friday art walk each month with art, music and wine.
Drink Beer (or cider)
Known for it’s breweries, Bend is said to be the microbrew capital of the West.
Avid beer drinkers will love the legendary Bend Ale Trail – 16 breweries are on the trail – and ticking off some, if not all of the breweries is one of the top things to do in Bend Oregon.
You can pick up a map at any of the breweries and have it stamped with each be you try. If you get 10 stamps the visitor center has a prize for you.
If you get all 16 stamps expect a bigger prize!
Here were a few of our favorite Bend breweries.
Crux Fermentation Project
Crux has the reputation for having some of the best craft brews in town.
There is a large selection to choose from and I was over the moon with my Crux Cider. It was so light in flavor with a strong orange taste.
Be careful though, you could easily mistake it for orange juice and gulp it down way to quickly!
I loved the design of this brewery and the large grassy area is perfect for kids. Our tribe had a ball wrestling and playing tag on the grass while we sat at the table in the sun enjoying adult conversation.
Food trucks line the perimeter but they also have a restaurant menu that serves delicious pizza.
Bend Brewing Company
Bend Brewing is the second oldest brewery in Bend and has a fantastic beer garden on the Deschutes River in downtown Bend.
There is space for the kids to run and play corn hole, making it a great family friendly brewery in Bend. They sometimes have live music out here.
The food is good (don’t pass up the sriracha seasoned cauliflower) and you can sit down inside or order from the food truck, which has more of the snack food on the outside.
There is also a small outside bar, but you’ll find more on tap inside.
Happy Hour: Mon- Fri 4-6pm
Avid Cider is a brand we came to love and enjoy in many destinations in the Pacific Northwest. It was great to first meet it at its beginnings in Bend.
Previously known as Atlas Cider, its ciders are made from regional and local ingredients and include seasonal beers like dragon fruit, which is what I like the most.
You can get a sampler that features their ciders for $12. It seemed like a lot of cider and a great way to sample whats of offer.
Next door to Avid Cider is Immersion Brewery with outside seating to match. Their made from scratch kitchen offers a variety of healthy and local choices that showcase the Central Oregon lifestyle.
Pair your pub house nachos with a mango passion fruit sour, and you’ll be immersed in some of that Bend, Oregon goodness. Even better if you time with their live music!
Happy Hours happen Tues-Thurs 3-6pm.
Sunriver Brewery Company
If you can time it right, sitting on the deck at Sunriver Pub on a warm afternoon enjoying a sweet cider after a hike is the ultimate.
This brewery is located in the popular resort village of Sunriver.
It’s one of the popular things to do around Sunriver for its burgers and award winning craft beer.
The Vicious Mosquito IPA is the most stinking beer on the menu! So they say. This is one you don’t want to pack the repellant for.
McMenamins Old St Francis Pub and Brewery
We came one evening to watch the Beatles cover band. We thought it was going to be in the beer garden but it was in a small room that was packed.
So we didn’t stay, but I loved the look of McMenamins Old St. Francis School. It’s very Irish in style and flavor but also very quirky with loads to explore and look at.
The (adult) girls stopped into the pub section for a cider sampling. They have plenty of beers to choose from.
In 2004, it was transformed from a 1936 Catholic schoolhouse to a hotel complete with classrooms-turned-lodging rooms, a pub, brewery, a movie theater, private meeting/event space, live music bookings, and an incredible old Roman-style soaking pool.
You can pay $5 for a soak or its free if you are staying there.
The lodgings are known for their secret mysterious doorways leading to surprises. Stay here and see for yourself!
CONSIDER: Half-Day Brews & Views Canoe Tour on the Cascade Lakes
Goody’s Ice Cream
After an epic hike or bike ride, be sure to stop in at Goody’s Chocolate & Ice Cream in Sunriver Village for a local ice cream treat.
They have locations in downtown Bend, the Eastside, or in Sunriver. The old-fashioned soda fountain offers ice cream sundaes, root beer floats, hand-dipped chocolates and ice creams of many flavors.
Other Places to Visit in Bend
The longer I stayed in Bend the more I realized there was to do. Here are few other Bend Oregon activities you may want to add to your list.
One of the popular Bend Oregon attractions is Tumalo Falls, a 89 ft. waterfall is right near the parking lot. You can hike five minutes to the top of the waterfall for a different perspective or hike upstream along Tumalo Creek.
There are other trails to smaller waterfalls as well.
Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway
Todd Lake has a scenic 1.25 mile loop walk around its perimeter. Devils Lake has a stunning mile return hike around a sparkling, spring fed pool of green water.
The Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway will give you vistas of the mountains toward Cultus Lake where you can rent a cone or jet skis.
COOL TOUR: Half-Day Cascade Lakes Kayak Tour
We did not get a chance to go up to Mt Bachelor but it came highly recommended.
In the summer, it offers thrill-seeking mountain biking trails, hiking trails and relaxing scenic chairlift rides overlooking the beautiful Cascades.
In the winter, it becomes the sixth largest ski resort in the USA and one of the top things to do in Bend Oregon in winter.
Our friends took the gondola up in the evening to Pine Marten Lodge for a special gourmet dining experience showcasing the local flavors of Central Oregon.
Match a beautiful meal with the sun dipping behind the Cascade Range.
It sounded amazing and their photos were spectacular. This experience is only available in the summer.
Put Mt Bachelor on the list of things to do in Bend Oregon summer and on your list for snowboarding and skiing in the winter.
Pilot Butte State Park
On the Pilot Butte Trail you can hike all the way to the top of a 500 foot cinder cone on a mile long paved road or the mile and a half dirt road.
It offers you 360 degree views of the Cascade Mountains to the west and the expansive high desert to the east.
Old Mill District
We passed by here leisurely on our tube and noted it as a place to come back to.
But with so many other things to do in Bend, we didn’t make it back. The Old Mill District has hip eateries, boutiques and big name brands.
The open aired Les Schwab Amphitheater is here and can accommodate up to 8,000 patrons for regular concerts and events. Visitors to Bend will want to keep an eye on the summer concert schedule!
Deschutes River Trail
Looking for free things to do in Bend Oregon?
You can hike or bike any section of this riverside trail that runs alongside the Deschutes River.
Trails range from easy to more challenging. The pathways that wind through downtown and the Old Mill District are perfect for lazy bike rides, especially with kids.
High Desert Museum
When there are so many adventures the outdoors and I’m short on time, I am not going to spend my time in a museum!
The High Desert Museum is rated as the best attraction in Bend by TripAdvisor so you may want to consider visiting.
Here you can have interactive experiences with animals, living history characters from the Old West, and explore high desert culture, arts and history through daily programs.
Indoor and outdoor habitats are home to an amazing array of animals, including otters, foxes, porcupines and a special Birds of Prey Center.
DAY TOUR TO CRATER LAKE: If you don’t have a car, you can join a day tour to Crater Lake, just two hours from Bend. It is a sight worth seeing. Click here
Video: Bend Oregon
Places to Stay in Bend Oregon
Hotels in Bend
From s’mores by the fire under a starry sky, to luxury spa resorts’ and standard hotel lodgings, there is accommodation in Bend to suit your style and budget.
We are affiliate partners with Booking.com and like using them because you can book a variety of Bend accommodation types on the one website – hotels, apartments, and hostels, even holiday homes – and their website is easy to use!
The best thing about booking Bend hotels via Booking.com is the free cancellation on most rooms and a best-price guarantee.
You can book knowing you are getting a low rate, and have the freedom to cancel if your plans change.
We also enjoy reading verified reviews from guests who stayed at the properties. Booking.com is our go-to hotel booking site.
Popular hotels in Bend:
Below are three hotels to consider based on a location score of 8+ and star ratings of 3, 4, and 5 stars.
3 Stars – Signature Bend Hotel
The Signature Bend Hotel offers free hot breakfast, big rooms and a lovely pool. A nice comfortable place to stay, with good service.
Easy to find off the highway, very convenient to downtown, and a grocery store within walking distance. Mt. Bachelor Ski resort is 15 minutes’ drive.
4 Stars – Oxford Hotel
Boutique eco-friendly Oxford Hotel has an optional location is optimal in downtown Bend.
Good atmosphere with great service. They are a pet-friendly hotel and offer a customized pet-package that comes with premium Ruffwear goods to welcome those traveling with furry companions. So cool!!
River’s Edge Golf Course is 1 miles away from this hotel. The popular Deschutes Brewery is less than 0.6 miles away.
5 Stars – Pronghorn Resort
The Pronghorn Resort is located on Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course and if you are a golfer, you will absolutely love this place. A restaurant, tennis court, spa and wellness center, kid’s club, and free bicycles are also available.
Beautiful property and like an oasis in the middle of nothing. Gas fireplaces and outdoor fire pits in the winter are popular.
See all Hotels in Bend on offer here.
Plan Your Oregon Road Trip with our Bucket List
We have a free printable PDF sharing our Oregon Bucket List.Click here to gain immediate access
This is just a sampling of the incredible adventures waiting for you on your Oregon trip. We hope you can also experience some of these best places to visit on the Oregon coast.
More travel tips & adventures in the Pacific Northwest
- Don’t miss the beautiful Mckenzie River region in Oregon
- Cool things to do in Portland (local vibes ahead)
- 13 Adventures for your Oregon road trip
- 16 ways to explore the diversity of the Olympic National Park, WA
- The Ultimate Guide to Seattle with kids
- 20 Amazing things to do in Idaho
- Pacific Northwest videos
6 thoughts on “20+ Don’t Miss Things to do in Bend Oregon (with kids)”
I love this area!! Looks like we have more to do next time we return. If you go back though, do stop at the High Desert Museum — the kids would have loved it. They have an open air living history museum, animals, and very cool exhibits on mining and wagon trails.
Great list! The diversity of activities here is just incredible! We certainly never get bored.
So much to do. I want to come back and experience more
Thanks for all the great info!
Where did you guys camp at? It looks like a nice park!
It was the Thousand Trails campsite about 30 minutes from Downtown. It was lovely although we’d like to be a little closer to downtown